30 tins of pineapple. Why pineapples? I don’t know. I did not try to understand. I just watched. The lighting is too dim for my liking. Too much movement. Blurs. Too crowded for my liking. Smell of people. Smell of street garbage. Filthy walls. At least it doesn’t snow in Hong Kong. Tattered washrag hung on window grills is a familiar sight to me. When clear water has been wrung from it then I can trust on its cleanliness, its readiness for the next use.
The blonde really really looked out of place even from the start. Her hair looked all wrong, an oversized prop. She reminded me of my favorite Saint’s gesticulating disguise.
What are you doing here? You’re supposed to be doing your homework.
Sorry, I can’t stop watching just yet. Kaneshiro Takeshi looks really really neat. And he’s ready to fall in love again. I can’t imagine him and the blonde together. Ah. Maybe that’s why she asks for his age. Arrrgh, Cop # 223 is just 24? 25? I heard from somewhere that Hong Kong cops are very capable. They have to be, with trouble always threatening to happen all over the place. (Sorry, but this is the impression I got from James Clavell.) I’m not sure if it still is the case (i.e., excellent police force commensurating for constant threats) because I don’t hear of them nowadays as much as I do of the other countries’. What do I know about Hong Kong, anyway? I haven’t looked it up since the time that I paid attention to Dirk Struan and his rival Brock, and then to Ian Dunross immediately right after that, he who was given the face of Remington Steele. But at least by then I came to know that Hong Kong’s waterways are not fit for swimming in. Or is it just that one where they had to jump to save themselves from burning on board? That was a romantic moment for, uh, I forgot who… But boy was it dirty. One gulp of the water would, uh, dirty their, uh, stomach? intestines? What about the eyes and the ears?
… I’m supposed to be doing my homework so I have to do this fast…
I thought of comparing Chungking Express with Brillante Mendoza’s Serbis but somehow I don’t think I can, or should. They’re both unforgettable films, yes, of dreamlike quality. But the first is of upbeat daylight while the latter is of fading twilight. Both do not cover up the filth of the city, yes, telling things as they are. Both employ shadows much, yes. I wouldn’t really choose to watch a film with lots of shadows and which reminds me of the real smell of a really crowded city but I like both films. Although Serbis left me wistful, ashamed that I live in comfort and still fret while many have to work hard at keeping their world from falling apart, it told me to be careful that I don’t talk about things just for the sake of saying something. There are reasons behind reasons behind reasons behind reasons of things. Chungking Express, on the other hand, left me giddy. Like the way The Longest Night in Shanghai did. I need to first become a student of filmmaking before I could get over my dislike of the use of so much shadow and dark lighting. If it has lots of shadows then I don’t want to be dragged into the kind of deep thoughts that will never get to see the light of the sun. But whereas The Longest Night in Shanghai was obviously a romantic comedy right from the start, with Chungking Express I didn’t know what to make of it until Cop # 223 insisted that the storekeeper consider the pineapple cans’ feelings.
Chungking Express is just another face of (a) love story. As the story unfolds, as you continue to stare at the screen despite the (for me) depressive backdrop, as you continue to stick with Cop # 223 first and then Cop # 663 next, you will feel your heart finally taking a rest, then you will remember how happy you were when you were just falling in love but couldn’t talk about it with anyone just yet.
30 tins of pineapple. How could he eat all that in one go? Did I misunderstand the scene? What a kid he still is, 25 and already a cop. Calling up elementary school girl friends, his uncle, aunt, cousin. A cry baby, complaining to his dog that he doesn’t eat the pineapples with him, not the usual cool hero image. But so handsome, and so neat, so a non-cop, so un-bismirched, so not belonging to the filth of his city and of his job. And Tony Leung, so boy-next-door. So kawaii, even. And Faye Wong, an elfin who has to deafen her mind against her own thoughts.
Cop 223, Kaneshiro Takeshi, is dumped by his girlfriend May on April 1. He waits out for her until his birthday on May 1, buying a tin of pineapple marked May 1 as the expiration date every day. The blonde hires people to smuggle drugs but is duped, jeopardizing her safety. She had to act first before running for her life. They meet and become each other’s savior. He eats lots of Cesar’s Salad and other foodstuff as he waits for dawn. They part. He was already out by 6 AM running away his sadness, the exact time he turns 25. Cop 663, Tony Leung, is dumped by his flight attendant girlfriend. He hopes she comes back. The elfin, Faye Wong, works for her cousin’s street side food store. They first talk to each other when he buys Cesar’s Salad. She grows a crush on him. He’s a regular customer, a friend of her cousin, and the latter suggests to him that he tries fish and chips also. His girlfriend comes back and looks for him at his usual street corner but it was his day off. She leaves a letter. Everyone reads it: flight cancelled, it says. There’re house keys in the envelope. When he stops going to the food store the elfin finds funny ways to stay in contact with him. Then Tony Leung smiles and you’ll conclude that he’s a very handsome guy. That’s the story. I had to say it to dampen the hype. Why the film earns a full post from me requires researching before I can say something on it. So I have to forget the why part for now. There are scenes that support Hong Kong’s reputation, that anything is possible there. There are scenes that say something on immigrants, or aliens, or contract workers. There are scenes that brought me back to my home city’s open air meal spots and produce markets. Pork with rice is also a favorite among us, and vegetables in a big basket carried over the shoulders is also a normal sight.
I don’t know exactly what “Chungking Express” is. Is it a train? Is Chungking a place? Does it have a cultural significance? Does the film’s name even mean anything at all? Is it saying anything about the constant rush in an Asian metropolis? The store is called “Midnight Express”. It opens until late at night. There was a train at the first half of the story, but the blonde who escaped by it has no scene by the Midnight Express. Is the film somehow a statement of how people stay disconnected though packed together within just 0.01 cm of reaching-out distance from one another? Is it a statement similar to the message of the lotus flower, that it blooms triumphant and pristine over the muck beneath it?
Hong Kong, 香港, Xiānggǎng, Hsiangkang, means “fragrant harbor”, after all.
added 28March2014. Other Kaneshiro Takeshi films that have inspired me similarly: Lost and Found, Sweet Rain, Turn Left Turn Right, K-20 Legend of the Mask, and the ‘drama’ series Golden Bowl. Each one deserves its own post. I have yet to discover the others similar to these. His historical/war movies are fine but preferably for me the less blood spilt the better; though I do appreciate them all the same as venues for his range of artistry 😉 ciao for now . . .